• Chart: The market for counterfeit goods is worth more than the Irish economy

Shoes, clothes, handbags, electronics: although the trade in items that violate international intellectual property laws is illegal, the corresponding market has been very active over the past two years. According to data from the Global counterfeit trade OECD and EUIPO report, the trade in counterfeit goods was around $449 billion in 2019. As shown in our graph comparing this amount to 2019 GDP figures for selected countries and regions in the OECD, selling counterfeit sneakers, watches and clothes is about as lucrative as running a mid-sized European country.

For example, the Irish economy generated around $431 billion according to OECD data, while Portugal ranked seventh among the organization’s member states with $372 billion. Interestingly, the size of the counterfeit trade market is also roughly on par with Hong Kong’s GDP of $466 billion, which itself is responsible for around 20% of the value of items seized between 2017 and 2019.

During this period, the former and China combined nearly 80% of the volume and about 90% of the value of counterfeit trade. Turkey, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates ranked third, fourth and fifth respectively in terms of value, while Turkey stood out with its contribution of around 10% to the total volume of goods seized. The authors of the report go on to note that this does not necessarily mean that the counterfeits originated in these economies, but rather that these states could also have served as a transit point for said items.

According to the publication, the trade in counterfeit or pirated goods accounted for 2.5% of global trade and about 6% of imports into the European Union in 2019. Although the report does not give concrete figures, the global pandemic has also had an impact on this specific market, with border closures and limited production capacities leading to an increased influx of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and disinfectants.

Pat R. Madsen